“Whatever” Works: Non-Targeted CI Lesson 4, “Frivolity Is the Mother Of Invention”

My second thought when I see this is “Think of all the classy waffles I could make.” This is the Pixel, a customizable waffle maker; you can create your own design by depressing any of the 81 squares.

Custom Waffles

But my first thought is, “This is Non-Targeted CI gold.” That’s right, golden-brown on the breakfast table is straight gold an hour later. Why? It passes the “interesting to just about anyone for at least a few minutes” test.

Project a picture of this quirky invention and enjoy the target language conversation it spawns. Think of all the structures and exchanges you could incorporate, spanning the ACTFL proficiency scale. Just a few examples:

Novice-Low, -Mid, -High: “What do you see?” “What image might be on the hidden waffle?”

Intermediate-Low: Students ask each other for facts about the picture or relevant facts about each other’s interests or preferences.

Intermediate-Mid: “What is your morning routine?”

Intermediate-High: Students invent and tell or write a brief story surrounding the Heart Waffle. (Who made it? For whom? Why?)

Advanced-Low: Students read or hear a more complex story (real or made-up) about the inventor of this waffle maker.

Advanced-Mid: Students stage interviews of the inventor by a talk show host.

Advanced-High: “What would it take to create and market this invention?” “What spinoff inventions might it inspire?

Superior: “What effects might widespread use of this waffle maker have on the breakfast industry? on gastronomy at large? on cohabitation?”

If you wanted to, you could take this non-targeted plan and target specific structures: “What would you make if you had this waffle maker?” “What is under, behind, next to, on top of the Heart Waffle?” etc.

To become a Master Questioner equipped with even more ways to form and use questions to sustain compelling interactions, check out my recorded webinar It’s All about the Questions!

Some more conversation starters from the culinary world:

chopstick fan

Dine Ink 1

And my all-time favorite frivolous furniture, “Turniture II”:
Turniture IILike the other “Whatever” Works lessons, use “Frivolity Is the Mother Of Invention” either when you’re not excited about whatever else you might have done on a given day or when you can see it dovetailing neatly with something you’ve already planned. The same benefits apply, most notably the short planning time and the ability to work with the frivolous invention in class as much or as little as you and your students wish.

Oh, how do you find out about these quirky inventions? The best way is to assign students to look for them and send you a link or picture. In fact, a variation on the whole lesson is to have each student bring in a quirky invention he or she has found and present on it.

You can also run a search for “weird inventions” vel sim.

If you missed the original post on “Whatever” Works / Non-Targeted Comprehensible Input, you can read it here. (That post also contains Lesson Plan 1, “The Man Who Sells the Moon,” and more ideas for asking and talking about pictures.) Also, check out Lesson Plan 2, “Thank You, Justin Bieber,” and Lesson Plan 3, “Not Today.”

See this article I wrote for IJFLT, “Non-Targeted Comprehensible Input: How it works for my students and me,” for lots more ideas about how to use and (yes) plan for non-targeted CI.

Happy indwelling!

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